Building hemispheric unity from below...

By Jerome Scott & Walda Katz-Fishman

In the 21st century we're fighting a global enemy; and, therefore, we are going to have to have a global movement.

Americas Social Forum 3 – a convergence of hemispheric struggles We gathered 7,000 strong at the Americas Social Forum 3 (ASF3) in Guatemala City in a dynamic convergence of social movements of the hemisphere. We gathered in an historic moment of deep structural global economic crisis; intensifying war, militarism and repression; social destruction of our communities; and ecological crisis threatening the survival of the planet. The power of Indigenous struggles for sovereignty and mother earth; of women and working class feminist struggles against patriarchy, militarism and violence; of compesina/o struggles for land and life; and of student and youth struggles for their future was highly visible throughout the social forum.

Guatemala has been the site of centuries of imperialist domination and U.S. intervention and occupation – including the U.S. overthrow of democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in 1954 in the name of anti-communism. The Guatemalan people suffered decades of U.S.-backed civil war in which revolutionaries and the left experienced huge losses. Guatemalan women today are confronting widespread femicide, with 100s of women murdered every year. The ASF3 Facilitation Committee was determined that this historic memory and these realities be lifted up, as well as the ongoing struggles of Guatemala's social movements,

The task of building hemispheric unity – as a strategic next step in building the global anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movement from below that envisions another world and has the collective power to make it happen – is central. The peoples of the hemisphere are tied together by a long history of genocide of Indigenous peoples, enslavement of African-descent peoples, and exploitation and oppression of the working classes and the women of these classes and peoples. Part of the international responsibility of U.S. social movements is to stay the hand of U.S. empire and war in the hemisphere and globally.

The current moment and capitalism's global economic crisis: the system is broken

What was especially important about the participation of U.S. social movements in the ASF3 was our discussions with the hemispheric social movements about the economic crisis coming from the U.S. and spreading throughout the world, and its meaning for our struggle for another world. In the early centuries of global capitalism, capital's drive for primitive accumulation of wealth though military conquest, theft of land and resources, and exploitation of labor (slave labor and wage labor) was the common tie of working peoples of the Americas. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, global capitalism's application of new technologies and tools (computers, robots, etc.) to production, distribution and communication and new forms of financial instruments and speculation again link our peoples in life or death struggles. Today's economic meltdown and our growing unemployment and poverty reflect a deep structural crisis of global capitalism, not a cyclical crisis from which there will be full recovery and new prosperity.

In the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, as production took a leap forward with the application of electronics – computers, robots, automation, digitization, etc. – global capital and global corporations could no longer make maximum profits the same old way, i.e., from the exploitation of labor in the productive process. Workers, with their labor, are the only commodity that produces new value. And, what determines the value of commodities is the socially necessary labor time contained in them. With fewer and fewer workers needed in production, capital turned to other ways of maximizing profit, especially speculative capital, which is the basis of neoliberal policies.

These realities gave rise to the neoliberal assault on working people and the environment in the developing and eventually the developed countries. Through privatization, deregulation, and destruction of the social safety net, infrastructure, and public services, capital was able to set in motion a global race to the bottom; to transfer public dollars, public land, and public property to private ownership, market forces, and new sources for profit; and to renew the centuries old appropriation of land and natural resources from Indigenous peoples across the globe.

Till the 1970s the U.S. economy was 90% real economy (production in auto, steel, rubber, etc.) and 10% speculative economy (speculation in complex financial instruments). By the 1990s this was reversed: 10% in the real economy and 90% in the speculative economy. Throughout this period the continual expansion of credit (along with growing debt), allowed for the expansion of the market.

By the 21st century even these processes could not generate sufficient profits to satisfy global capital, resulting in the creation of even more exotic and toxic financial instruments – hedge funds, derivatives, packaging and sale of mortgages including subprimes, credit default swaps, etc. – in an orgy of speculation. Together speculation and credit created a widening gap between the price of commodities and the amount of value contained in them, resulting in bubbles bursting, financial meltdowns, and a freeze on credit.

Given the crisis on Wall Street and the global financial sector that peaked in 2008, global capital and its governments were faced with a decision: the biggest bailout in world history and transfer of taxpayer dollars to private corporations or the financial collapse of global capitalism. The U.S. government stepped up with the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, biggest U.S. home mortgage holders; brokered sales of Wachovia and Washington Mutual, and investment bank Bear Stearns (while Lehman Brothers went bankrupt); and bailout of AIG, world's largest insurance company, etc. To date the price tag for the U.S. people is over $1 trillion, and over $2 trillion for the world's peoples.

With all this money flowing, none of it is going to the working class and the poor. And, in this stage of global capitalism, each successive economic crisis will be deeper, wider, and more destructive than the previous one. Capitalism will not collapse on its own, it will not transform into a socialist economy, but it will and is transforming into a fascist state. The criminalization of social movements and our challenge to global capitalism is the threat they are preparing for, propaganda notwithstanding, with more prisons, new repressive laws, new concentration camps, and domestic deployment of military forces. While global capital moves toward fascism, we as social movements move toward an anti-capitalist transformative vision and collective liberation.

Hemispheric unity building toward global movement

Global capital – our global enemy – knows what its for. The question is, do we know what we're fighting for and how we're going to get there?

Global and hemispheric social movements have used the social forum process to gather, to dialogue, to vision, and to chart the path forward. We, as U.S. social movements, have participated in that process and organized the US Social Forum in 2007 to form deeper relationships, unity, and internationalism; build movement infrastructure; and advance our vision and struggle.

The ASF3 was a powerful moment and convergence. From throughout the hemisphere social movements of those most oppressed and exploited were in the leadership. There was much discussion about the electoral and governmental forms throughout Latin America and especially of the ALBA – the Venezuela-led alternative to the "free trade" model of global capitalism, including the Bank of the South.

A question that came up time and again was: "What do we mean by socialism in the 21st century?" Socialism, a cooperative society, is the next stage of human history. The challenge to our social movements is to vision the content of this society. For U.S. social movements this is the next step.

Critical related questions include: "What does Indigenous sovereignty look like in the 21st century with many contending forces for land and resources?" And "How do social movements insure the visibility and participation of African-descent struggles in the hemisphere?"

Joel Suarez of the Martin Luther King Center in La Havana, Cuba observed: "The US Social Forum and this forum mark the closing of the loop in U.S. participation in the Americas social movements. Now we can truly talk about a process of the Americas."

Only we, as conscious and visionary forces within and with the social movements, can finish capitalism off. The future is up to us. Make it happen.

-- Posted By Grassroots Global Justice to GGJ America's Social Forum delegation at 10/29/2008 09:07:00 AM


another world is possible! another US is necessary!

we are making our history!

walda katz-fishman%%NaV%%